Silverman v. United States
365 U.S. 505 (1961)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Silverman v. United States, 365 U.S. 505 (1961)

Silverman v. United States

No. 66

Argued December 5, 1960

Decided March 6, 1961

365 U.S. 505

Syllabus

At the trial in a federal district court in which petitioners were convicted of gambling offenses under the District of Columbia Code, there was admitted in evidence over their objection testimony of police officers describing incriminating conversations engaged in by petitioners at their alleged gambling establishment, which the officers had overheard by means of an electronic listening device pushed through the party wall of an adjoining house until it touched heating ducts in the house occupied by petitioners. Held: Such testimony should not have been admitted in evidence, and the convictions must be set aside. Pp. 365 U. S. 506-512.

(a) Although much of what the officers heard and testified about consisted of petitioners' share of telephone conversations, it cannot be said that the officers intercepted those conversations and divulged their contents in violation of § 605 of the Communications Act of 1934. Pp. 365 U. S. 507-508.

(b) On the record in this case, the eavesdropping was accomplished by means of an unauthorized physical penetration into the premises occupied by petitioners, which violated their rights under the Fourth Amendment. Goldman v. United States,316 U. S. 129, and On Lee v. United States,343 U. S. 747, distinguished. Pp. 365 U. S. 509-512.

107 U.S.App.D.C. 144, 275 F.2d 173, reversed.

Page 365 U. S. 506

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